Rufousnaped Lark

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Zaagkuildrift Rd to Kgomo Kgomo

I surprised myself yesterday by actually getting up at 04h30 to go birding. I initially wanted to go to Mkhombo Dam but decided on Zaagkuil because it seemed a lot closer. It was a great days birding, apart from some early morning traffic on the dirt road and some inconsiderate birders, I had the morning to myself and with no time schedules I could bird at my own pace and it took me three hours to travel from the start of the road to Wolfhuiskraal!

I have been having problems with my camera in that all the images seem to come out soft (slightly blurred) so I decided to play around with the cameras auto focus settings while photographing a confiding Red-backed Shrike and a hunting Black-headed Heron. I eventually settled on a setting of -3 which gave much sharper images, I'm not 100% happy yet but there was a vast improvement in image quality.

Arriving at sunrise, I saw all the usuals like Amur Falcon, Northern Black Korhaan, Lesser Grey Shrike, Black-headed Heron and Long-tailed Shrike. Apart from my camera setup shots of Red-backed Shrike and Black-headed Heron, photo opportunties at this stage were non-existant and I only got my first photos after the MPCA Dam. This was of two Cape Penduline Tits chasing each other around a dry bush which was exciting as I have never seen these birds on Zaagkuil before.

Cape Penduline Tits

The two Tits were a lot yellower than those I have seen before which caused a bit of confusion at first as I thought that they may have been Yellow-bellied Eremomela!

The area along Zaagkuildrift rd is very dry at the moment which does not bode well for sightings of River Warbler. Driving slowly I was able to pick up several Spotted Flycatchers, one calling Woodland Kingfisher, several Willow Warblers, Blue Waxbill, Pied and Arrow-marked Babblers and a Purple Roller being harrassed by a group of White-crowned Shrikes.

Purple Roller under attack

White-crowned Shrike

Yellow-billed and Red-billed Hornbills were more numerous than what I remember from my previous visits over the last few years. Grey Hornbill was also seen in the area where the bush starts becoming more open. This area also produced Green-winged Pytilia, Rattling Cisticola, White-browed Sparrow-weaver, Red-billed Firefinch, Village Indigobird, numerous Burchells Starlings, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Green Woodhoopoe and Eurasian Roller. Red-backed Shrikes are extremely common along this road.

Red-backed Shrike male

I managed to see all of the common Roller species during the morning with Purple, Eurasian and Lilac-breasted present.

Eurasian Roller

A trip down one of the side roads across the flood plain, which was again very dry, produced Hamerkop, Diederik Cuckoo, Pin-tailed, Long-tailed Paradise and Shaft-tailed Whydah, Barred Warbler, Marico Flycatcher and a calling Olivetree Warbler.

Diederiks Cuckoo

A small Party of Pied Babblers was seen with very large chicks! I didn't get a photo of the chicks as they stayed deep in the bush away from the road.

Southern Pied Babbler

Lesser Grey Shrike is also common at this time of year.

Lesser Grey Shrike

One of the farms along the road had this way out of range creature strolling around the farm!


Finally, a photo of a Shaft-tailed Whydah on a bush!

Shaft-tailed Whydah (2)

I love the expressions on the faces of the cattle and the Ox-pecker

Red-billed Oxpecker

I eventually got a Steppe Buzzard at about 11 o'clock!

Steppe Buzzard

This Juv Pale Chanting Goshawk was a nice sighting as they are not very common in this area.

Juvenile Pale Chanting Goshawk

On the way out I quickly phoned for permission to visit the MPCA Dam, donned my leaf suit and found a quiet spot on the bank. After a short while this Wood Sandpiper wandered across in front of me not knowing exactly what I was!

Wood Sandpiper

The best thing I discovered about the leaf suit was that I was able to approach these Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters without them being too worried. These are the best photos I have ever managed to get of this species (I didn't say I was an excellent photographer). I will definately be trying the leaf suit again in future. Watch out warblers!!

Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters (4)

All in all it was a magic mornings birding, I didn't have a time limit and only decided to head back at 13h48 because I felt a bit guilty about taking so much time for myself!! I think I would have stuck around until the evening birds arrived if I could have but I will have to save that for another day! My list total for the day ended up on 106 which isn't too bad for only one pair of eyes??


Where Eagles Rest said...

Stunning photos of the Bee-eaters!! It is sad that Zaagkuil/Kgomo-Kgomo is so dry ....
I went through all your photos (all beautiful) - but couldn't find any Senegal Lapwings?? ;-P

Gareth Hazell said...

Ha ha ha, they will come! Just keep watching ;-)